Five Best Friday Columns

Seth Mandel on the trial of Kermit Gosnell, Alex Seitz-Wald on Mitch McConnell, Kevin Roose on abandoing Bitcoin, Matt Latimer on Thatcher's compromises, Om Malik on Mark Zuckerberg's immigration reform.

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Seth Mandel at Commentary on the trial of Kermit Gosnell Yesterday, USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers asked why the multiple-murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell had not gotten more prominent coverage among news outlets. Seth Mandel offers one perspective: "There is no area of American politics in which the press is more activist ... than social issues, the so-called culture wars. And the culture of permissive abortion they favor has consequences, which they would rather not look squarely at." Mandel cites prior research on eugenics and sex-selective abortion, by authors who warned against leveraging their findings to narrow access to abortion. "The downside to uncovering what many believe to be a shocking trend in human rights offenses [is that] people will want to do something about it." Powers's column also spurred a call for more socially conservative Christians to enter the mainstream media. Matt K. Lewis at The Week noted, "Powers' faith no doubt informs her journalism, probably making it more likely that she will cover stories about abortion and human trafficking that some of her colleagues might not be as likely to explore." (Earlier this week Last year, Walter Russell Mead at The American Interest declared that "people who aren’t well informed about religion aren’t competent to report much of the news in this world.") But Anna Williams, writing for the religious magazine First Things, discourages anti-abortion activists from grousing. "The solution for pro-life activists is not merely to complain about lack of coverage... the solution is to get a job (or encourage your kids or your students to get a job) inside the mainstream media."

Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon on Progress Kentucky and Mitch McConnell The bizarre scandal involving the recording of a meeting of Mitch McConnell's campaign consultants by a leader of the Progress Kentucky Super PAC highlights just how incompetent the effort to unseat McConnell has been, writes Alex Seitz-Wald, who reports on his prior experience with the small Super PAC. "No one took its members very seriously in Kentucky, even before the slurs or the secret tape. I know this because I once quoted Curtis Morrison, who was one of what appears to be only two or three people associated with the group (he resigned in March), and a number of liberal activists in the state told me to never do it again." The group's finances were even worse: "Last election cycle, in which $6 billion was spent by candidates and outside groups, Progress Kentucky raised $1,005. Thousand. They spent $18. Yes, you read that right." Evan McMorris-Santoro and Ruby Cramer at BuzzFeed agree: "It's probably possible for a political group to be worse at accomplishing its core mission than Progress Kentucky is, but it's difficult to imagine how." Perhaps out of necessity, Peter Weber at The Week shot down the notion that Progress Kentucky functioned as an amateur ploy to prop up McConnell's re-election chances. "Unfortunately for Democrats, Progress Kentucky is probably closer to the Three Stooges than a stooge for McConnell," Weber wrote.

Kevin Roose at New York on abandoning Bitcoin For Bitcoin to work amidst its strange crash, Kevin Roose argues, it will require as much adult supervision as government-sponsored currencies. After pointing out puzzling calls from Bitcoin enthusiasts to somehow regulate the Bitcoin market, Roose writes, "Bitcoin is an anarchist's brainchild, and proponents believe that its value as a currency system is that it is, as Tyler Winklevoss put it, 'free of politics and human error.' Of course, that's not true. The exchange of money is deeply a political process that relies heavily on human intervention and competence ... Bitcoin needs more enforced stability mechanisms, and a governing entity to oversee them, if it's ever going to be reliable enough to be considered a real alternative to government currency. That would sort of negate the entire point of Bitcoin, but it's true." But he's optimistic about the consciousness that Bitcoin raises about the nature of money: "It has made untold numbers of people think about fiat currency and where their money derives its value." At Reuters, Zachary Karabell observes that we're still too naive to even know what an apolitical, error-free economy would look like. "Referencing 'the laws of economics' as a way to refute arguments or criticize ideas has the patina of clarity and certainty. The reality is that referencing such laws is simply another way to justify beliefs and inclinations."

Matt Latimer in The Washington Post on Thatcher's compromises The image of Margaret Thatcher as an uncompromising politician has achieved widespread purchase among contemporary conservatives, observes Matt Latimer. The problem is, Thatcher did compromise, and with frequency: "Thatcher did indeed bemoan leaders who reflexively sought out political consensus — "something in which no one believes and to which no one objects" — and pitied those who sought positions simply to be liked. ... But the truth is that Thatcher, as well as Reagan, compromised all the time, in ways large and small. On tax rates, on spending, on their approach to the Soviet Union. Before she became leader of the Tories, Thatcher was considered in some quarters a rather run-of-the-mill middle of the roader." In politics, Thatcher was much more shrewd that she is given credit for, Latimer continues, before tying the myth of her unbending conviction to today's GOP. "The beatification of the Thatcher who brooked no compromise — St. Margaret the Rigid — fits nicely with the group think of contemporary Republicanism." That said, she still provides a model to follow: "Thatcher thought. She mused. She read. She considered. She sometimes changed her mind. She did not substitute mindless mimicry for the hard work of thinking." Michael Barone at the Washington Examiner locates her success in her willingness to dissent. "It was Margaret Thatcher's special genius that she systematically rejected the conventional wisdom, almost always well-intentioned, of the political establishment," he writes. "Instead, she insisted on hard, uncomfortable truths." Nevertheless, The Guardian's Gary Younge argues, she managed to transform the same establishment: "Thatcherism was a gift Thatcher bequeathed to the British political class. Tony Blair entrenched her agenda ... David Cameron has expanded and deepened it. Clegg has willingly conceded to it."

Om Malik at GigaOm on Mark Zuckerberg's immigration reform Mark Zuckerberg's plan to reform the U.S. immigration system suffers from a misunderstanding of basic economic realities, says Om Malik. Focusing on Zuckerberg's declaration that today's economy "is primarily based on knowledge and ideas — resources that are renewable and available to everyone," Malik writes: "Yup, ideas and knowledge are renewable and available. But do they lay the bricks for the data centers that house Facebook’s servers? Do 'ideas' — as Zuckerberg & Co describe — actually build the dams that in turn produce the electricity that helps you poke Mark? The food on your plate, it too is just bits and bytes?" That Zuckerberg's idea of reform refuses to acknowledge individuals who would not directly benefit Facebook's — and Silicon Valley's — bottom line evidences a lack of seriousness, Malik says, and a true a awareness of reality. "If Mark and others really cared deeply about immigration reform on a holistic level then the conversation would involve a whole lot of other people — members of non-engineering and non-technology corps," Malik writes. "I don’t buy that just because an immigrant works on an algorithm make her more important." Still, the immigration apparatus does require reform, in part because it is so disparate and complicated, writes Tate Watkins at Real Clear Policy: "One reason the system is so costly is because there is no one line to 'get in' to come to the United States – just a hodgepodge of disparate channels through which potential immigrants can apply based on country of origin, family ties, and employment status."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.